- The Toronto Maple Leafs will wear an alternate jersey designed by Justin Bieber when they face the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.
- The Bieber design is the first reversible jersey in professional sports history.
- Bieber was born in London, Ontario and is a legit lifelong Maple Leafs fan.
You can say many things about pop singer Justin Bieber. When he first skyrocketed to stardom he was a heartthrob to 12 year old girls and that made him an easy target. At this point, you’ve got to give him some props. Bieber recorded his first demo tape when he was 13 years old and by the age of 14 he was a megastar. That’s a similar trajectory to countless teen idols of the past. Teen idols are a dime a dozen and most fade as quickly as they arrived. You remember the DeFranco Family and their teen heartthrob singer Tony DeFranco (ironically, also from Ontario)? I barely remember them so probably not. They sold a ton of records in the 70’s and released a number one song called Heartbeat–It’s a Lovebeat in 1973. They’re a classic cautionary tale for teen idols–they released their last single in 1975 and were out of the music business by the late 1970s.
To his credit, Bieber has managed to remain relevant for well over a decade. He’s now 28 years old, and still moves product. Given the seismic changes in the music industry during his career that’s even more impressive. He’s seamlessly transitioned from album sales (he’s reportedly sold 150 million of them worldwide) to the streaming era. He had his 10th number one song (and 26th top ten song) earlier this year–more than any male artist in history. In January 2022, he set the all time record for most monthly listeners in Spotify history (94.68 million). I can’t say I’m a fan of Bieber’s music but he’s not only still around well over a decade from his peak but still extremely successful. That’s not easy for any entertainer.
Bieber is also a legit Toronto Maple Leafs fan. That isn’t a huge surprise, being an Ontario native and all. He’s been seen throughout his career wearing Leafs’ gear and he’s now reportedly a close friend with Toronto superstar Auston Matthews. Matthews recounted this funny story that definitely validates Bieber’s Maple Leafs fandom:
“When we first started talking and becoming friends and stuff, [Bieber] texted me like, ‘We need a D-man. We need a guy like Brian McCabe. I just laughed so hard because it’s like, you’re no different than the guy on the street that’s coming up to me being like, ‘Hey, nice to meet you. Can I get a picture? Man, we need a guy … We need this, we need that.'”
Now, Bieber’s love for the Maple Leafs has come full circle. He’s designed an alternate jersey for the team that they’ll wear tonight when they play the Toronto Maple Leafs. Even better–it’s reversible. The NHL claims it’s the first reversable jersey in North American professional sports and I sure can’t think of another one. That makes it sound like it would be easy to goof on and could potentially make the Leafs a ‘laughing stock’ but guess again–the jersey is ‘straight fire’ as the kids say. The jersey was made to commemorate the Leafs’ ‘Next Gen’ game night series where they celebrate young hockey fans. Here’s what Leafs’ president Brendan Shanahan had to say about the Next Gen games and the Bieber jersey:
“Since its inception during our 100th anniversary celebrations in 2017, the Next Gen game has become an annual team event where all our fans, young and old come together to celebrate, and in some cases introduce and share their passion with our next generation of Maple Leafs fans. We are excited to be able to take Next Gen to another level with this special uniform designed with our next generation in mind. The opportunity to collaborate with Justin and drew house to create such a unique alternate sweater will make it even more special for our fans and the team.”
Brian Jennings, NHL chief brand officer and senior executive vice president, sure sounds like you think a brand officer would sound:
“They wanted to have an influencer like Justin Bieber who has a passion for hockey and a passion for the Leafs so we were excited about what that is because of the global iconic following that he has and we kind of went to work with adidas. adidas sits at that cross-current of youth, sports and lifestyle so they bought in immediately.”
“Third jerseys — the intention when we develop these — it’s an excellent opportunity for our clubs to really explore new identities and colors. In this instance, it wasn’t about a new identity but really doing a collaborate effort and being able to turn the jersey inside out where you can have this special moment of discovery.”
Throughout the process, Jennings says they all knew better than to mess with the iconic Maple Leafs logo:
“Our Original Six, one of the things that makes their brand iconic is that it doesn’t change a lot. I do think younger kids and I do know that Leafs fans really enjoy this and it’s a nod to an Original Six franchise but one that’s definitely doing a great job looking to diversify and get younger with their fanbase.”
The jersey is full of cool details like the skyline of Toronto woven into the armbands on the sleeves–here’s what Jennings has to say about that:
“I call them elements of discovery. We don’t necessarily see it when the cameras pull back but once you purchase the jersey, you can see the skyline in the sleeves. Those are the things I think the fans will really like and it adds to the storytelling aspect as to why they changed this. They are proud of the city and the skyline of Toronto and where they play.”
Bieber had these comments on the design:
“My love for the Maple Leafs has always been a big part of who I am, and my passion for the team, and the passion of millions of fans, is stitched into this Next Gen sweater. I’m grateful to the Leafs for the chance to team up again to create something so authentic for the team and its fans.”